LBCC offensive coordinator Sean Flynn poses with his quarterbacks and the War Axe trophy.

For much of Saturday’s rivalry football game between Long Beach City College and El Camino, it looked the Vikings would pull away for an easy win to retain control of the War Axe trophy. LBCC led by 24 points with less than ten minutes remaining in the game but ended up seeing that lead whittle to just seven points before securing a 55-48 win.

It’s the fourth consecutive win for the Vikings against their South Bay rivals, and they retain control of one of Southern California’s most unique rivalry trophies, the War Axe—a reference to the shared imagery of the teams’ “Viking” and “Warrior” mascots.

With the win and a loss by Riverside against Mt. SAC, LBCC (7-3, 4-1) clinched a third consecutive National Central conference championship and a fourth straight bowl appearance. They'll host Bakersfield in the Patriot Bowl at 4 p.m. next Saturday.

“If you can win three straight tiles with the level of competition we play, that’s pretty special,” said LBCC coach Brett Peabody. “The season didn’t go the way we wanted but we’re really young.”

El Camino (5-5, 2-3) will likely be done for the year but will await the Southern California Football Association’s bowl game announcements on Sunday.

Vikings head coach Brett Peabody was frustrated with the way his team let the lead slip away late.

“Honestly we’ve had a lot of games this year that should have been blowouts but ended up close because of how we didn’t finish,” he said.

In the first half, LBCC took a 24-10 lead as quarterback Grant Lowary spread the ball around, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Mike Wilson had six catches for 105 yards and a pair of scores.

LBCC took a 31-17 lead on an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Cedrick Byrd, who also had 100 yards receiving and a touchdown through the air in the first half.

The Vikings defense limited ElCo quarterback Jerman Gotoy to 115 yards passing and one score, but Gotoy brought the Warriors back in the second half. After returning a fumble for a score with 9:48 remaining in the game, LBCC took a 55-31 lead, at which point the Warriors took control of the rest of the game.

Gotoy quickly drove the Warriors down the field and scored a touchdown, then the Warriors blocked a Vikings punt and returned it for a touchdown to cut the lead to 55-45 with 7:35 remaining.

On the next drive as the Vikings were trying to run the clock out, the Warriors picked off a pass from Lowary and returned it to the LBCC nine yard line, ultimately kicking a field goal to cut the lead to seven with 5:17 remaining.

The Vikings drained the clock but had to punt it away with 1:36 remaining—the Warriors drove to the LBCC 29, but a fourth-down pass fell incomplete to turn the ball over on downs.

Sports Guy Mike Guardabascio has been writing professionally for a decade, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards and is the author of the historical book "Football in Long Beach."

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